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UTAHNS ASK INTERIOR CHIEF TO GRANT 3 WISHES

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Like Aladdins approaching a genie, Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt and Rep. Karen Shepherd, D-Utah, requested three wishes Monday from new Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. They were:

- Have the Clinton administration support a state-federal land trade that could bring up to $200 million for cash-poor Utah schools.- Fund completion of the Central Utah Project, which is to bring water from eastern Utah to the thirsty Wasatch Front.

- Help resolve disputes over how much wilderness to create on Bureau of Land Management areas in Utah.

Leavitt and Shepherd said the meeting was mostly to tell Babbitt what the state's top priorities are. While Babbitt did not pledge support, he promised to look closely at each area.

"He supports the concept of the school trust land trade. But he said he was unfamiliar with the specifics and would try to get up to speed on it," Leavitt said.

It would trade state lands surrounded by national parks, forests and Indian reservations for other federal lands and mineral royalties that can produce money for Utah schools. Different versions of Utah land trade bills passed both houses last year but failed to become law.

Leavitt also said, "I told him the CUP is absolutely critical and we need funding to complete it."

Congress last year passed a law authorizing Congress to spend an additional $922 million to complete the CUP over the next several years. But the president still must request money to do so each year in his annual budget, and Congress must approve it.

While Leavitt said he told Babbitt the state views the CUP as critical, he acknowledged to the Deseret News that he has been reviewing whether all planned portions of it are necessary.

The law passed last year requires the state to pay a much higher cost share for remaining CUP projects, so Leavitt said, "I don't think funding of it should be an automatic as it has been in the past."

He acknowledged he has been reviewing such things as whether building an expensive irrigation system for southern Utah is warranted. "But the more I look at it, the more I see everything is connected. If we don't build it, other things cost more. I will probably have more to say about it next week," Leavitt said.

Shepherd said they also explained that they have been involved in Project 2000, which brings people from a variety of backgrounds together to try to map out goals and resolve differences.

"He is supportive of that type of process," she said.

Babbitt already has said he hopes all opposing groups on Utah wilderness can begin meeting together and narrowing their difference, and has pledged any support possible for that process.